US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits
By MARTHA MENDOZA and GARANCE BURKE
Friday, July 6
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged, the Associated Press has learned.
The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.
“It was my dream to serve in the military,” said reservist Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant who filed a lawsuit against the Army last week. “Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.”
Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged. Others who pressed for answers said the Army informed them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.
Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the Army said that, due to the pending litigation, they were unable to explain the discharges or respond to questions about whether there have been policy changes in any of the military branches.
Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. Most go the Army, but some also go to the other military branches.
To become citizens, the service members need an honorable service designation, which can come after even just a few days at boot camp. But the recently discharged service members have had their basic training delayed, so they can’t be naturalized.
Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, said she’s been inundated over the past several days by recruits who have been abruptly discharged.
All had signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath, Stock said. Many were reservists who had been attending unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training, while others had been in a “delayed entry” program, she said.
“Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775,” Stock said. “We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”
Stock said the service members she’s heard from had been told the Defense Department had not managed to put them through extensive background checks, which include CIA, FBI and National Intelligence Agency screenings and counterintelligence interviews. Therefore, by default, they do not meet the background check requirement.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.
The AP interviewed Calixto and recruits from Pakistan and Iran, all of whom said they were devastated by their unexpected discharges.
“Now the great feeling I had when I enlisted is going down the drain,” said Calixto, 28. “I don’t understand why this is happening.”
In hopes of undoing the discharge, he filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., last week alleging the Defense Department hadn’t given him a chance to defend himself or appeal. He said he was given no specific grounds other than “personnel security.”
Calixto, who lives in Massachusetts and came to the U.S. when he was 12, said in an email interview arranged through his attorney that he joined the Army out of patriotism.
In the suit, Calixto said he learned he was being kicked out soon after he was promoted to private second class.
The Pakistani service member who spoke to the AP said he learned in a phone call a few weeks ago that his military career was over.
“There were so many tears in my eyes that my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them away,” he said. “I was devastated, because I love the U.S. and was so honored to be able to serve this great country.”
He asked that his name be withheld because he fears he might be forced to return to Pakistan, where he could face danger as a former U.S. Army enlistee.
Portions of the 22-year-old’s military file reviewed by the AP said he was so deeply loyal to the U.S. that his relationships with his family and fiancee in Pakistan would not make him a security threat. Nonetheless, the documents show the Army cited those foreign ties as a concern.
The man had enlisted in April 2016 anticipating he’d be a citizen within months, but faced a series of delays. He had been slated to ship out to basic training in January 2017, but that also was delayed.
An Iranian citizen who came to the U.S. for a graduate degree in engineering told the AP that he enlisted in the program hoping to gain medical training. He said he had felt proud that he was “pursuing everything legally and living an honorable life.”
In recent weeks, he said, he learned that he’d been discharged.
“It’s terrible because I put my life in the line for this country, but I feel like I’m being treated like trash,” he said. “If I am not eligible to become a U.S. citizen, I am really scared to return to my country.”
He spoke on condition of anonymity because of those fears.
It’s unclear how the service members’ discharges could affect their status as legal immigrants.
In a statement, the Defense Department said: “All service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation.”
However, immigration attorneys told the AP that many immigrants let go in recent weeks were an “uncharacterized discharge,” neither dishonorable nor honorable.
The service members affected by the recent discharges all enlisted in recent years under a special program aimed at bringing medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 sought-after languages into the military. The idea, according to the Defense Department, was to “recognize their contribution and sacrifice.”
President George W. Bush ordered “expedited naturalization” for immigrant soldiers in 2002 in an effort to swell military ranks. Seven years later the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI, became an official recruiting program.
It came under fire from conservatives when President Barack Obama added DACA recipients — young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally — to the list of eligible enlistees. In response, the military layered on additional security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.
The Trump Administration added even more hurdles, creating a backlog within the Defense Department. Last fall, hundreds of recruits still in the enlistment process had their contracts canceled. A few months later, the military suspended MAVNI.
Republican Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland, who has supported legislation to limit the program, told the AP that MAVNI was established by executive order and never properly authorized by Congress.
“Our military must prioritize enlisting American citizens, and restore the MAVNI program to its specialized, limited scope,” he said.
Non-U.S. citizens have served in the military since the Revolutionary War, when Continental soldiers included Irish, French and Germans. The U.S. recruited Filipino nationals to serve in the Navy in the 1940s, and worked to enlist Eastern Europeans in the military over the next decade, according to the Defense Department.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 110,000 members of the Armed Forces have gained citizenship by serving in the U.S. military, according to the Defense Department.
Many service members recruited through the program have proven to be exemplary. In 2012, then-Sgt. Saral K. Shrestha, originally from Nepal, was named U.S. Army Soldier of the Year.
In general, the immigrant recruits have been more cost-effective, outperforming their fellow soldiers in the areas of attrition, performance, education and promotions, according to a recently released review by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institution.
The AP spoke with a 26-year-old woman from Dominica who said she proudly enlisted in the immigrant recruitment program in 2016 while earning her nursing degree. She said she drilled each month with her reserve unit, which gave her an award, and had been awaiting a date to start basic training.
But in March, she said she looked up her profile on an Army portal and saw that the section about her security eligibility was marked “loss of jurisdiction,” with no further explanation. The next month, her attorney said she found the reservist’s name listed as “unsuitable” on a spreadsheet created by the Defense Department.
The reservist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about her legal standing, said she received additional paperwork last month that indicated her case is awaiting a final decision.
“I have always been a good soldier and have always done what they ask me to do,” she said. “I got into debt when I joined the Army because I can’t work legally but, financially, I can’t survive anymore. I don’t want to give up because I genuinely like being in the Army. But I don’t know who to turn to.”
In recent years, a group of attorneys have been fighting to keep their recruited immigrant clients eligible for naturalization as delays have mounted. Some have been successful, including nearly 50 recruits granted a type of temporary status while their background investigations are being completed.
“Some of our clients have finally emerged through the system and at least are doing basic training,” said Donald Friedman, a Washington attorney with Perkins Coie.
Burke reported from San Francisco.
The Most Anti-Woman President Ever
By Laura Finley and Matthew Johnson
It’s hard to imagine a presidential administration that hates women more than the current one. Not only has the President himself faced numerous sexual assault allegations and been caught on camera and in debates making derogatory and repulsive comments about women, but his policies to date clearly show deep disdain for women, despite the fact that Mr. Trump once claimed, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”
Target the most vulnerable is the Trump administration’s philosophy, argues Jill Filipovik of the UK Guardian. After his first 100 days in office, Serra Sippel wrote in the Huffington Post, that they read “like anti-woman and anti-human rights check list. From day one, Trump has been relentless in his attempts to undermine human rights globally, especially for women, girls, and other marginalized populations. Trump has done everything in his power to disempower women – their health, their well-being, their human rights.” One of Trump’s first moves upon taking office was to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which withholds federal funds from organizations that even discuss abortion as an option. The Gag Rule was previously in effect between 2001 and 2008, and during that time women’s access to contraceptives decreased, the rate of unsafe abortions increased, and HIV prevention programs were significantly scaled back. In April, Trump announced plans to significantly cut funding to the UN Population Fund, which provides maternal health and family planning assistance to women in 150 countries.
Per the President’s directive, between May 5 and June 9, 2,342 children were taken from their parents and held in separate detention centers. Although he has since announced he reversed the order to separate immigrant women from their children, the administration has said it these children will not be immediately reunited with their mothers. Although it is clear that the Obama administration was far from kind to families in this regard, the Trump administration has taken it to a new level, with reports of babies being taken from their mothers while breastfeeding. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, an international organization, has cautioned that this results in trauma that is not only short-lived. Furthermore, it is a violation of human rights.
Equally egregious, although it warranted less outrage, was Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the administration was removing asylum protections from victims of domestic violence. Sessions’ ruling vacated a 2016 ruling by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals. Michelle Brané, director of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s migrant rights and justice program, said “Women and children will die as a result of these policies.”
Of course, there’s also the President’s defense of known domestic abusers. Trump backed Rob Porter, the White House aide who was forced to resign after it became public knowledge that two of his ex-wives had accused him of abusing them. Although he was not elected, Trump threw his weight behind Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for U.S Senate in Alabama who had been accused of engaging in inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl.
So, respect for women? Actions are way louder than words, Mr. Trump. It remains shocking that 53 percent of white women who voted in the 2016 election supported this raging misogynist. We remain hopeful that things are indeed darkest before the dawn, and that the realization of just how anti-woman this president is couples with the coming wave of female candidates will bring a sea-tide of change. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The Handmaid’s Tale, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated byPeaceVoice.
Matt Johnson is an author and activist.
Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers
Residents of Ohio’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities rate their providers
Data in online consumer guide helps older adults, families choose quality care
Columbus, Ohio – The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, a division of the Ohio Department of Aging, has released results of the 2017 Long-Term Care Resident Satisfaction Survey. The survey, conducted through face-to-face interviews with residents of nursing homes and residential care (assisted living) facilities, gauges residents’ satisfaction with an array of focus areas related to their care and everyday life.
The statewide average score for resident satisfaction in nursing homes was 77.8 (out of 100). The Statewide average score for resident satisfaction in assisted living facilities was 85.2 (out of 100). Full facility-specific satisfaction survey reports are available on the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide website (www.ltc.ohio.gov).
“For a decade and a half, the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide has helped older Ohioans and their families make one of the most difficult and important decisions in their lives or that of a loved one,” said Erin Pettegrew, Acting State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “The guide and its annual satisfaction surveys are also valuable resources for facility staff and leadership as they continue to reach toward a higher bar for quality.”
“We sometimes forget that these facilities are ‘home’ for those who live there. Residents deserve their homes to be as responsive to their needs and reflective of their interests and values as possible,” added Beverley Laubert, Interim Director of the Department of Aging. “Scores in this and other surveys show us that person-centered care not only drives customer satisfaction upward, but also leads to higher quality of life and better health outcomes.”
The 2017 Long-Term Care Resident Satisfaction Survey was conducted between July and December 2017 by Vital Research, LLC, through a competitive contract with the Department of Aging. Surveyors conducted structured face-to-face interviews with a random sample of residents in each facility. A total of 23,145 residents in 963 nursing homes and 12,849 residents of 687 assisted living facilities were interviewed. Slightly more than half of each type of facility (501 nursing homes and 357 assisted living) scored above the statewide average.
In addition to overall satisfaction, the survey measures how well specific aspects of the facility meet the residents’ needs and expectations. Areas explored include environment, choice and quality of meals, safety, care, staff and how residents spend their time, along with others. In both types of facilities, residents were most satisfied with the environment (e.g., cleanliness, privacy) and care. Lower satisfaction was reported with meals and how residents spend their time.
“With this data, we can help facilities focus on areas that are most important to the people they serve,” Pettegrew said. “Quality care is a partnership between the facility, the resident, family members and advocates like ombudsmen.”
In 2018, the State Ombudsman’s office is surveying family members of nursing home and assisted living residents. Results of the 2016 Family Satisfaction Survey are currently available in the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide.
Volunteers are another way the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for consumers and helps nursing homes. If you would like to volunteer to visit with nursing home and assisted living residents and help them resolve issues with their care, call the State Ombudsman’s office at 1-800-282-1206 or visit www.stepup.ohio.gov. To learn more about the Ombudsman program, visit www.ombudsman.ohio.gov.
About ODA – The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.